Arsenal closing in on Bayern Munich’s Luiz Gustavo

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Luiz Gustavo was an important piece of depth for last year’s treble winners, but in Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich, the Brazilian international didn’t even make the bench for Friday’s opener. Whereas the system Jupp Heynckes used to claim last year’s Champions League used two players at the base of midfield, Guaridola’s only using one. Bastian Schweinsteiger has that spot. Javi Martínez is his understudy. Gustavo can’t break the 18.

That means the 26-year-old needs a new home, lest he wants to spend the lead-up to World Cup 2014 scrounging playing time scraps around the Allianz. Thankfully, Gustavo’s also gotten offers from teams in England, Italy and Russia, with reports claiming Arsenal will try to close the deal this week.

Depending on the price, Gustavo would be a useful acquisition for anybody, his ability to play in midfield or defense giving him the versatility to fill in at a number of spots. If your team plays a typical defensive midfielder, there’s a good chance he’s better than the one you’ve got. For Arsenal, he’d provided some needed reinforcement.

The extent to which you see Arsenal as needing reinforcement probably depends on your view of Alex Song. Arsenal sold their defensive midfielder to Barcelona last summer and didn’t truly replace him. The following season, the Gunners recorded two more points, still finished top four (albeit one spot lower), and allowed 12 fewer goals. Yet missing a  destroyer at the base of midfield, some felt Arsenal lacking.

That’s where Gustavo steps in. He is what’s become a typical Brazilian sitter – a player whose very strong protecting the defense (or, at times, dropping into defense) but doesn’t offer a lot in the build up. He strikes a ball well and can be dangerous running onto a shot, but he’s much more Gilberto Silva than anybody Arsenal used in front of the defense last year.

But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves on this one. First, he hasn’t been signed, and although the link (above) is from a reputable source, the language is the typical thin, nebulous content that’s regularly churned out by the London media. There’s no mention of potential fee, wages, and there only quote being used (“nothing concrete yet”) is ambiguous. We have to trust the report isn’t coming out of nowhere, but it could be stronger.

Likewise, we shouldn’t just assume Arsenal will move Gustavo into the starting XI. Some feel a prototypical destroyer is obligatory in today’s game, but Arsene Wenger was clearly content mixing a matching his non-defensive midfielders last season. The three central players who ended up with the most appearances were Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey, and Jack Wilshire, but even the last two would sometimes find themselves out of the XI if Santi Cazorla was moved in from the winger.

And, as we mentioned, Arsenal’s defense actually improved last season. A lot of that was on the year-over-year improvement was saw from Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny, but some of it could have been Arsenal’s improved ability to hold the ball. If that’s Wenger’s view, Gustavo could just be a tool in the box, something to use as the job requires. And it that’s not Wenger’s view, he could still see Arsenal’s back five as sufficient.

Regardless, this is Arsenal, and given how their summer’s progressed, there’s reason to be skeptical that this deal’s as close is being reported. But if Gustavo winds up at The Emirates, he should be a very useful part.

Europa League Preview: Everton, Milan look to make group stage

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Everton look to make it back into the Europa League group stage for the first time since the 2014-2015 season and it has a two-goal advantage heading into the second leg of its tie.

Ronald Koeman and co. travel to Croatia to face Hadjuk Split Thursday having won the first leg at Goodison Park, 2-0. Everton is coming off a hard-fought draw on Monday with Manchester City and will be on short rest heading into the match.

Elsewhere in Europa League action, AC Milan take its 6-0 aggregate lead to Skopje, Macedonia as the legendary club looks to return to the group stage of a European competition for the first time since 2013-2014.

Here’s a look at all of Thursday’s Europa League matches, with the current aggregate scores:

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EFL Cup Rewind: Southampton, Newcastle knocked out by Championship sides

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Last season, Southampton made it to the EFL Cup final. This year, it’s a different story.

The Saints were bounced by Wolverhampton Wanderers, 2-0 at home on Wednesday in the second round of the cup. Joining Southampton of Premier League sides going home early was Newcastle, which lost 3-2 after extra time at home against Nottingham Forest.

Four other Premier League sides did advance to the third round, as Stoke City, Huddersfield Town, West Ham United and Burnley all won their fixtures.

Here’s a look at the rest of Wednesday’s EFL Cup action:

Blackburn 0-2 Burnley

Cheltenham 0-2 West Ham

Huddersfield 2-1 Rotherham

Newcastle 2-3 Nottingham Forest

Southampton 0-2 Wolverhampton

Stoke City 4-0 Rochdale

Breaking down who each Premier League team could face in the UCL Group Stage

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The UEFA Champions League group stage lineup is complete, with five Premier League clubs making the list.

On Wednesday, Liverpool joined Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City and Manchester United in the group stage after beating Hoffenheim, 6-3 on aggregate in the playoff qualification round.

Thursday’s Champions League draw (2 p.m. ET) will place clubs into groups of four, where they’ll play three matches at home and away.

Here’s a look at the four coefficient pots and who each Premier League club could face:

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Follow Live – Texas Derby, Cascadia Cup headline busy night of MLS action

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Welcome to MLS Rivalry Week.

The surging Houston Dynamo could move to first place in the Western Conference with a win over rivals FC Dallas while the current first-place side, the Seattle Sounders travel north and across the border to face Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

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The Dynamo have made an impressive turnaround under coach Wilmer Cabrera and he’ll have the trio of Ricardo Clark, Alberth Elis and star forward Erick Torres available to face Dallas after missing the Dynamo’s match at Vancouver last weekend, which ended 2-1 in favor of the Whitecaps.

FC Dallas are in its worst form of the season, winless in its last four games, but the team will be extra motivated to beat its rivals.

El Capitan is on the line after draws between FC Dallas and the Dynamo in two matches earlier this season.

Meanwhile up in Vancouver, the Whitecaps host a Sounders squad that pulled out a last-gasp victory last weekend over Minnesota United. While the team is in great form on the road recently (two wins and two draws), the top story heading into the game is the unexpected absence of Joevin Jones, who left the Sounders for his home in Trinidad and Tobago ahead of the upcoming international break.

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On the other side, Fredy Montero faces his former club and carries an interesting record into Wednesday’s match. Of his 35 MLS goals, 11 have been scored against Cascadia Cup competition.

Here’s a look at Wednesday’s action:

Full schedule

Columbus Crew vs. LA Galaxy – 7:30 p.m. ET

D.C. United vs. Atlanta United – 7:30 p.m.ET

FC Dallas vs. Houston Dynamo – 8 p.m. ET

Toronto FC vs. Philadelphia Union – 8 p.m. ET

Real Salt Lake vs. San Jose Earthquakes – 10 p.m. ET

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Seattle Sounders – 10 p.m. ET

Portland Timbers vs. Colorado Rapids – 10:30 p.m. ET